Budget vote tomorrow, re-election kick-off

Voting on proposed City budget tomorrow

We do have a Council meeting tomorrow, starting at 10am. The entire day/meeting will be dedicated to discussing amendments to the budget, with a final vote on the budget later in the day. In general, I think this budget is very responsible, in that we are not utilizing all of our bailout money this year (half is being saved for next year), most of the department cuts from last year remain in place, and there is a very slight decrease in the total number of employees. That said, my biggest concern about our budget is the same as last year: we still have a structural deficit that is being driven primarily to staff costs, in particular pensions and salaries. As I’ve mentioned before, our expenditures grew by 12% and our revenue only grew 2% (9% after the bailout). Some of this is from the staff pay increases that were negotiated 3-4 years ago when we made the mistake of shifting to 4-year union contracts, rather than single year. We unfortunately listened to the previous City Manager who recommended this shift, and low and behold it was a complete failure as it prevented us from being able to negotiate a new contract when we had the pandemic crisis. The other large component of expenses are pensions, and in particular the fire/police pensions, which are separate from the rest of the city employees. We eventually need to shift the Fire and Police to the State pension system. Related to this, previous Mayors underfunded the pensions so we are paying catch-up now.  The typical City employee is on the State pension system and the City contributes roughly 7% of employee salaries to these pensions, but for fire/police we gave them pensions run by the City and the City contributes roughly 34% of salaries, if my memory serves. All that said, the good news is that our current City Manager has made addressing this deficit his number 1 goal for the next fiscal year.

I do have one budget amendment which would freeze all conversions of contractual staff to civil servant (fully benefitted) staff. My original thought was that a pandemic recovery year is not necessarily the best time to make such conversions while we also have a structural deficit we haven’t yet resolved. However, after I discovered that we actually have slightly (3) less positions than last year, and that at least two of the conversions are grant funded, I’m reconsidering this amendment.

Sidewalks in Ward 7

I am working to get three new sections of sidewalk in Ward 7. I’ve asked the City Manager to start the project initiation process to gather the necessary information to add a sidewalk on Bembe Beach Road from BayWoods down to the Annapolis Sailing School, improving./adding the sidewalk on Edgewood Road in front of or across from the Ellen Moyer park, and adding sidewalk on the west side of Bay Ridge Ave in front of the Shell gas station all the way down to Forest Hills Ave. Once the studies are completed in 4-6 months, the deliverable will be three separate capital project sheets, one for each area, that can be added to the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) either later this year or for the next fiscal year.

Party on the beach! Re-election campaign kick-off

I have been honored to have had the opportunity to serve you for the past 4 years, and I hope you will give me an opportunity to do so for another 4 years. I am holding a re-election kick-off party on Bembe Beach, overlooking the Severn River, at the Annapolis Sailing school on June 24th, complete with food from Main & Market and bossa nova from local musician Jonathan Stone. I hope we can reconnect and catch up at this event (from 6 to 9pm). You can get tickets at https://www.robsavidge.com/campaign_kick_off_21

Stay healthy and stay safe,

Rob

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Campaign kick-off: beach, food, music

This past year has been….something else, and we all deserve a party! Join us for beautiful views from Bembe Beach, breezy Brazilian bossa nova from Jonathan Stone, and light fare from Main & Market, as we launch my campaign for re-election and re-connect after what has been a very long year. I would be honored to continue serving as your Alderman for Ward 7, but I will need your support to do so. We have a short 3 months until the primary election and 5 until the general election, and we have much to do to get to the finish line. We will have various campaign materials on hand for people to take home with them as well as sign-ups for door-knocking, phone banking, and house (back yard?) parties. I'm looking forward to catching up with everyone!

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Pool open, police reform updates

I hope you find some time to enjoy this beautiful spring weather this weekend. The brand new Truxtun Park pool is opening this weekend, and it looks like it’s going to be beautiful weather for swimming. I have information on the facility and prices at the end of this email. Also, read on for details on Monday’s City Council meeting and other City items.

PEACE ordinance update

The Police Enhancement And Community Engagement legislation I introduced (O-12-21) is still working its way through our process. We are now discussing possible amendments to respond to public comments we’ve received, address the concerns form the police and law office, and bring it into compliance (or exceedance) of the State police reform legislation. For a full list of what this legislation accomplishes, you can find that here or on my website. This legislation has certainly been a challenge trying to get passed. We heard from the Police Chief and the Police Union two weeks back and that meeting ended up essentially collapsing. The Department led with some factual information about their operations, which was helpful, but then they let the Police Union speak. While we wanted to hear from the union during the public comment period (I don't believe they submitted any testimony), they unfortunately gave testimony during a work session that was incredibly misleading and contained outright lies about our legislation. They claimed the legislation would defund the police with certain cuts, when our legislation contains no cuts whatsoever. They also insisted that our legislation is driving down morale and making it hard to fill police positions. What they fail to mention is that we've been unable to fill all of our officer positions for the past decade, well before this legislation was introduced. Perhaps morale is an issue because the Union is spreading misinformation to their membership about this legislation? I was further disappointed in the Police Chief essentially saying "if it aint broke, don't fix it", as if we haven't had our own issues with our Police Department lately and as if we are somehow insulated from national tragedies (the Capital shooting proves otherwise). Regardless, the sponsors and I are moving forward to do what we can to build peace and trust between the police and the community.

Stay healthy and stay safe, 

Rob

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Police reform final testimony, close boat ramp to county?

I have a number of City Council updates for you this week.

Last chance to testify on Police Reform PEACE ordinance

First of all, Monday is your last opportunity to offer public testimony (at least at a Council meeting) on the police reform and community policing legislation titled PEACE, O-12-12. You can offer testimony at www.annapolis.gov/testimony.

City Budget

Next up is the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. We are still moving forward with our review of this in Committee, but we are starting to wrap things up. To offer a bit of a summary, prior to receiving the Biden COVID bailout money, the City was facing a $6 million deficit, with expenditures growing 12% and revenue only growing 2%. With the bailout, our revenue jumped up to 9%. We are balancing the deficit with other funds, as we typically do, but a number of us are looking to take some larger steps in the future years to really close the gap on this deficit for good. The deficit is really driven by staff costs, and in particular the pay raises granted to the unions from the 4-year contracts (what a mistake that was to go to 4 years, which unfortunately was pushed by the previous City Manager), and also the pension costs of Fire and Police, who are on a different (City) retirement system than all of the other employees (who are on the State system). To Mayor Buckley’s credit, he has made it a point to honor the pensions and ensure they are 100% funded, while previous administrations often reduced pension contributions in an attempt to free up more money. The larger steps I alluded to are exploring giving up our Fire Department to the County (as other municipalities have done) and looking at siphoning off certain special operations of our Police Department also to the County (also as other jurisdictions have done, such as Bowie). This could include a K-9 program, bomb squad, or other operations where we could easily establish MOUs with the surrounding/overlapping jurisdictions. We at least need to explore this, as both our Police and Fire have grown from what used to be 14% each of our budget, to now being 24% each of our total expenditures. This is not sustainable for us and we need to figure out a solution. We also need to identify funds from those big two departments that we can siphon off to fund other efforts such as community services, which still contribute to the public safety goal.

Clarification/correction

On a related note, I want to offer a clarification to my comments about the last administration. I had said that the fire staff increased from 98 to 139 employees during the last administration. That was not entirely correct. While the last administration (Pantelides) added around 14 fire employees under the auspices of the federal SAFR grant (which was designed to decline year after year until the City was left footing the entire bill ourselves), much of the increase happened during the Moyer administration when the Council decided to go from 3 shifts to 4 shifts for the firefighters. Increasing the shifts (as they have apparently done in other nearby jurisdictions) required hiring more fire fighters. The next administration, Cohen, had laid off a number of firefighters, which were then hired back under Pantelides.

Tucker street boat ramp – reconsideration to ban County?

Also of note is that O-5-21, legislation governing the Tucker Street boat ramp, will be coming up for a motion to reconsider. The Ward 2 Alderperson is planning to make this request, and I am contemplating voting in favor of the reconsideration, though I likely won’t change my original vote as I do NOT want to ban the County residents. I’m considering supporting the motion as I feel we need to have more discussion about this for the public’s sake. The intention of the legislation was/is to create a permit process for the use of the boat ramp (not the beach), with the goal of reducing usage of the boat ramp, which frankly doesn’t’ have the infrastructure to support a very heavy use. The original intention with the legislation was to limit the usage of the ramp by restricting its use only to City residents, banning the County residents. After receiving concerns from our County neighbors, I introduced an amendment that allowed County resident to use the ramp, but still banned anyone from outside of the County from using it. Such users should really be directed to the Truxtun ramp anyway, as that has the infrastructure to support such use. All that said, the residents near the boat ramp still were not satisfied with that compromise and still want us to ban our County neighbors from using this ramp. What they seem to fail to realize is that both the permit requirement and the restriction to City & County residents will serve to reduce usage. I’m likely to stick with the compromise or perhaps even go further to re-open this ramp to anyone, as long as they get a permit. If you have any thoughts on this, please let me know.

Stay healthy and stay safe,

Rob

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Public hearings Monday on police reform & FY22 budget

I have a few updates for you this week. First of all, read on for a few vaccination opportunities currently available in Annapolis. Also, at this Monday’s Council meeting there is the first public hearing on my police reform/community policing legislation (called PEACE). I’ll include a link below if you would like to submit any testimony (or you can always send it directly to me, but the benefit of using the link is it goes to everyone on the Council). Lastly, there also is a public hearing on the City budget. I’m still delving into the budget myself, and we have a special evening work session on the budget on Tuesday, to accommodate those of us to have day jobs. Once I have a chance to analyze it more fully, I’ll send out more information, but I do provide some information below on what’s in the budget.

Stay healthy and stay safe,

Rob

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Police reform legislation & budget introduced

I would like to share with you some important updates on what I have been working on and details on our Monday Council meeting.

Police reform legislation to be introduced

As I detail below, I have spent the past 6+ months working on legislation I’m calling the Police Enhancement And Community Engagement (PEACE) Ordinance. This is nothing radical. It attempts to accomplish just what the name implies: peace between the public and the police by improving trust between the two. I looked at what other nearby jurisdictions, such as Montgomery County and Washington DC are doing on this front, and also looked at best practices documented by the NAACP and ACLU. Let me be clear, many of these standards are already being practiced by our police department. But many are not. New standards and standards enshrined in our City Code are needed to ensure that we do not have a local tragedy like we have seen happen all over this country to individuals like George Floyd and Brianna Taylor. As stated recently in The Capital, “There is no liberty without life. No pursuit of happiness without life. No free speech, no right to assemble, no freedom of the press or religion without life. We all have the right to life, as long as we’re somebody.”

You can read a summary of what this legislation would do here.

Running again

As I stated in my last email to you, I am running for re-election this November. Thanks to all of you who have already donated. If you haven’t, please consider donating $25 or $50 to my campaign, or signing on to be a sustainer by donating $5 or $10 a month. I would be honored and privileged to continue serving you and the City. www.robsavidge.com/donate

State of the City & Budget introduction

Stay tuned! At this Monday’s meeting the Mayor will be giving his State of the City address and introducing the proposed fiscal year 2022 budget. Don’t worry, based on what I’ve been told thus far, there will be NO increase to the tax rate, and thanks to the Biden pandemic bailout money it looks like we will NOT have to lay anyone off this year or enact furlough days. More on the budget later as we get fully briefed.

Stay healthy and stay safe,

Rob

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PEACE (Police Enhancement And Community Engagement) summary -

Police Enhancement And Community Engagement (PEACE) ordinance

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Running for re-election & details on Monday Council meeting

Did you miss the virtual Ward 7 Town Hall?

First of all, I wanted to thank those of you who attended the Ward’s first virtual town hall. If you missed it, and would like to hear the updates and remarks from myself and the Mayor, you can view the meeting here. I hope to hold another one in late April or May.

I’m running again!

You may have noticed in yesterday’s Capital Gazette that I’ve declared my run for a second term. I have enjoyed serving you during my first term and I hope I can count on your continued support. Please consider donating $25 or $50 to my campaign, or sign on to be a sustainer by donating $5 or $10 a month. www.robsavidge.com/donate

Next Council meeting

There isn’t anything too exciting on the agenda for Monday’s Council meeting. New legislation is being introduced that attempts to allow greater numbers of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). If you recall, an earlier version of this legislation was withdrawn about 12 months ago. Other than that we have a number of pieces of legislation up for a final vote but nothing too controversial. I’ll provide full details below.

Stay healthy and stay safe,

Rob

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Ward 7 virtual Town Hall Tuesday & legislative updates

Before I get into the details about this Monday’s Council meeting and let you know about things that may be of interest, I wanted to remind you about the first virtual Ward 7 Town Hall meeting, coming up this Tuesday, March 9th, from 6-7:30 pm. Mayor Gavin Buckley will be our special guest for the first half hour, and we will both give you updates on things in the Ward and City and answer any questions you may half. After that we are welcoming Eileen Fogarty with the Maritime Advisory Task Force, who will tell us about the work the task force is doing, which could greatly impact Ward 7’s industrial maritime district (i.e. the area down Edgewood Rd on the west side). I’ll paste the login information for the Zoom meeting below.

Stay healthy and stay safe,

Rob

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Virtual Ward 7 Town Hall - March 9th w/ 2 special guests

I would like to invite you to our first virtual Ward 7 Town Hall event, coming up on Tuesday, March 9th, from 6-7:30pm. We will be having two special guests: the Mayor Gavin Buckley and Eileen Fogarty, with the Maritime Advisory Task Force.

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